James Hunt

Archive producer James Hunt talks about what it means to work with archival footage and finding creative ways of acquiring content for documentaries, film, theatre and advertising.

Archive producer James Hunt talks about working with archive footage across documentaries and advertising, and the unique challenges of searching for never-before-seen footage. From the private investigator-like work of retracing a murderer’s journey in the Netflix documentary American Murder, to negotiating licensing for clips of The Beatles and The Who, James covers a lot of ground in his work. James describes some of the essential skills needed for navigating the archival institutions, as well as the pitfalls of YouTube as a video archive.

James also talks about how you can start a career in the field and learn more about the work. 

Questions he answers include:

0:00 - Introduction
1:36 - What does it involve to make a documentary like American Murder? 
4:14 - Is everything in American Murder archive footage 
5:36 - Do you work across a lot of mediums as an archive producer?
7:40 - When you do an advert where do you get the clips? 
9:40 - Is there a lot of research involved in being an archive producer?
13:53 - Do you only work with the best bits of footage or are you mostly sorting through rubbish? 
16:59 - What are the most difficult things about being an archive producer?
21:10 - What are the practical difficulties in finding and acquiring the footage?
24:40 - If you can’t clear a part of the rights for footage, what do you do?
28:52 - Was producing American Murder comparatively affordable because most footage came from public domain?
29:40 - Have you used footage from the victim’s social media?
31:05 - Has the demand for archive work driven up the costs of archive material? 
32:50 - How long do you give yourself before telling a client that something isn’t doable or that a clip doesn’t exist in the archive?
34:16 - Why are YouTube clips problematic?
37:21 - Do you have any tips for negotiating the licensing of clips from institutions like police departments etc.? 
39:40 - When you started out as an archive producer, how did you get people to know about you? 

About James Hunt 

James Hunt is a multiple award-winning producer and archive producer with more than 23 years’ experience.  He was head of archive at Princess Productions where he worked on prestigious entertainment and factual shows such as The Friday Night Project, School of Saatchi and Imagine: Jay-Z; He Came He Saw He Conquered. Since going freelance, he archive produced on the BAFTA award-winning 7/7 One Day in London, the RTS award-winning Graffiti Wars and Apple Music’s first ever commission 808. Most recently, he was archive producer for the Netflix hit American Murder, a doc constructed entirely of archive footage. 

About this event 

This is a recording of an online event that took place on 26 October 2020. This event was supported by the ScreenSkills Television Skills Fund which invests in training for the freelance television workforce thanks to contributions from the BBC, Channel 4, ITV and Channel 5. It was introduced by ScreenSkills training producer, Philip McCreery. It's part of a ScreenSkills programme managed by the Indie Training Fund to support freelancers to upskill and stay connected, helping to keep the industry resilient during Covid-19. 

Further careers information

Learn more about the role of archive producer.